King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort St. Simons Island Georgia

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I walked through the door of my cheerily elegant room at the King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island off the coast of Georgia, and straight to the patio overlooking the pool and the ocean beyond. It was a brooding overcast sky, almost the color of the water. I thought it beautiful and romantic. The sound of the surf lapping the sand calms me, the rolling waves entrances me. I was almost late for dinner.

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I had been invited to enjoy the hospitality of the resort and experience their newly renovated lobby and enjoy their completely redone restaurant. And, of course, indulge my passion for walking along the ocean. And St. Simons Island, a barrier island off the southern coast of Georgia was the perfect setting. The island itself is laid-back and restful, but with a charming village, and historical sites (as well as fun restaurants and shopping) for diversions (should anyone feel the need to leave the beach).

Mystery and History of the King and Prince Name

The lodging part of this historic hotel (on the National Register of Historic Places and a member of Historic Hotels of America) was built in 1941, but the site dates back to 1935 with a private dance club with the same somewhat odd name. Why King and Prince? There are a couple of stories behind the name. One story goes that the friends of the owners of that dance club bestowed a name they felt appropriate to its atmosphere and the men who opened it.

But, hanging in one of the lovely private dining rooms are two portraits identified as King George and Prince. Mysteriously, there is no indication of which of the several King Georges, and age has rendered the name of the Prince unreadable.

While you're there, peek into the Delegal Dining Room for a look at their historic stained glass windows depicting scenes across St. Simons Island. Six were created and installed in 1938, and three more were discovered during the 1983 hotel renovation. From the military -- Site of the Battle of the Bloody Marsh, to the religious -- Wesley Oak and Christ Church, to the nautical -- St. Simons Lighthouse, and more, these are gorgeous.

King and Prince Golf Course

The King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort takes the golf part seriously. The course is famous for its forests, salt marshes and dramatic island holes. Plus, there's PGA instruction and a comfortable clubhouse. Four of its holes have been carefully carved from the coastal marsh.

Not only are the holes spectacular (including a nesting eagle) but it features Mini Verde greens, Tif spot collars, Celebration tees, roughs and fairways, with the traps wrapped in Emerald Zoysia. Golf Club Manager Rick Mattox notes "We're the only course in the region with these types of grass and our golfers are amazed at the fantastic course transformation." Special golf packages are available.

King and Prince Today: New lobby and delicious dining

Even royalty needs updating sometimes, and King and Prince has been restoring and renovating the lobby, meeting rooms, and restaurant space.

The dated concept of a pool in the hotel lobby has become an elegant and welcoming space with the skylight bar, cozy banquettes, and tables indoor by the windows. There's a welcoming fireplace (for cooler weather).

The restaurant concept was redesigned too. It is now Echo -- named in honor of the period in the hotel's history when it hosted officers, classrooms and towers used in WW2 with the exciting new radar technology.

And the menu stresses regional providers of sustainable products whenever possible -- fresh Georgia shrimp and meats, and local cheeses. The menu will change seasonally. It's just fun to know where you food comes from (and the answer shouldn't be "oh, we get it from Sysco").

Some of the standouts we sampled include the Peach BBQ Shrimp -- crispy outside and sweet shrimp inside. The Grouper was spear caught and mild with a firm texture, served with spiced pecans it was delicious. The beef tenderloin with truffle grits (this is the south grits are not only ubiquitous but delicious) and a bleu cheese demi-glaze was fork tender with a surprising bit of tang. The wines were excellent.

Beautiful Ocean Setting

But King and Prince is more than just delicious food and drink (much as I love great food and drink). All this dining and drinking takes place steps away from the ocean.

St. Simons is one of the barrier islands which serves to gentle the waves and the sand bars that appear and disappear with the tide provides a place for birds to perch and strut without being bothered by humans.

The beach itself is long, wide and hard packed sand, more like the Daytona beaches that were once the site of actual car racing. You can easily bike on this sand, as well as dig deep moats and build high sand castles.

Barry's Beach Services rents just about anything and everything you need to enjoy the beach -- chairs, cabana tents, paddle boards, sailboats, kayaks, and one surprisingly fun form of transportation -- a fun cycle.

If there is something more decadently pleasurable than watching the ocean waves while sipping a delicious alcoholic beverage, or walking along the water watching the birds running and hopping in the surf, I have yet to find it.

And, while you're there, keep an eye out for dolphins, I'm told they like to swim just outside the sand bars.

If You Go

King and Prince is easily reached from Jacksonville, Florida airport. If you rent a car the drive is about an hour or you can make arrangements to have car service meet you at the airport. But renting a car does mean you'll have transportation to explore some of the fun and interesting sites (and good restaurants) on the island.

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Neala Schwartzberg McCarten

Unless otherwise indicated, all photos by the author

Published: April 24th, 2014



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